Tag Archives: Margarita Engle

Piano

Drawing by Saul Steinberg

Pianos are splendid. Here is a book that explains with brio how they came to be.

My friend Julan Chu, a gifted pianist, lent me a fine, shiny piano. It felt wrong to have it and not to play it, so I began to take lessons again last January.

Julan Chu -portrait by Julie Paschkis 2003

My lessons became virtual when the pandemic arrived, and they also became more important to me. The discipline of practicing scales and pieces has been an anchor (a metronome?) during these strange times.

In the book Dancing Hands, Margarita Engle tells the story of the pianist, composer and singer Teresa Carreño, who immigrated to the U.S.A. from Venezuela during the Civil War. This book tells the story of the power of music in light and dark times- like a piano it conveys a whole range of emotions. Click here for a link to the illustrator Rafael Lopez’s fantastic blog about how he illustrated the book.

Although I am practicing and playing through dark and cloudy times, you wouldn’t illustrate my attempts with vivid blossoms. My hands stumble and squawk more often than they dance.

Christoph Niemann

But it is interesting to try, and it is satisfying to see incremental change. Every once in a while I can make music.

Petr Vasilievich Miturich

When I am at the piano I need to let everything else go, which is difficult. I realize how fractured my attention has become. Practicing requires presence.

In May Christoph Niemann published a graphic essay in the New York Times about the solace of learning piano as an adult during the pandemic.  (Click HERE for a link.) He brilliantly illustrated the pain and the pleasure of the practice. Now he has turned that essay into a book: Pianoforte.

His illustrations are perfectly compressed ideas – succinct, funny, and true to my experiences.

He shows the frustrations …

the side benefits…

and the ephemeral pleasures.

 

I had to include actual music in this post!  Please click HERE for a link to Ballade No. 15 , composed by Teresa Carreño, played by Alexandra Oehler.

And here is a link to the website of my fantastic piano teacher, Carrie Kahler. She teaches young children as well as adults. Because the lessons are virtual you could sign up no matter where you live.

What has kept you going during the pandemic? Please share your thoughts in the comment section. Thank you.

 

Bugs Abound

The world is thrumming with insect life. In the summer I feel more aware of all the bugs around us.Paschkis Summer Birds p6When I illustrated Summer Birds by Margarita Engle I got to spend some time with insects. When I began the book I knew it would be fun to illustrate imaginary creatures and misconceptions about metamorphosis, but it turned out to be equally entertaining to draw real insects.Paschkis Summer Birds p30-31

In a field of one square mile you will find as many insects as there are people on the entire planet. The Smithsonian Institute estimates that there are 10 quintillion (10,000,000,000,000,000,000) insects on earth. That means there are 200 million insects for each human being.

Raul Dufy 1911

Raul Dufy 1911

There are roughly 900,000 different kinds of living species of insects, fascinating in their particulars. Check out the website What’s That Bug to see some of them.

Here is an unscientific selection of some bugs that have buzzed through children’s books, in chronological order.

In 1807 John Harris came out with the Butterfly’s Ball. It was one of the first books made to delight children as opposed to improve or edify them.butterfly ball

The success of that book spawned The Butterfly’s Birthday in 1809, illustrated by William Mulready.Mulready Butterfly

Palmer Cox (who created the Brownies) painted this is 1890. .queerie queers 1890

Kafka published Metamorphosis in 1915. In 1927 you could have tea with Fly Ratter Tatter, illustrated by Vladimir Konashevich.fly ratter tatter

Some bugs are easier to love in art than in life. This lone cockroach and the swarming mosquitos below are from Alyonushka’s Tales, illustrated by Yuri Vasnetsov in 1935:
vasnetsov kitchenvasnetsov bear mosquitos

John Langstaff wrote Frog Went A-Courtin in 1955 and Feodor Rojankovsky won a Caldecott for the illustrations. The book teems with bugs in minor and major roles.
Rojankovsky frogRojankovsky flyRojankovsky fly pie593Rojankovsky snakeNext to come in was a little chick,Rojankovsky chick591

Wm. Steig’s Presumptuous Insect is not from a children’s book but it begged to be included.steig insect

Doug Florian is a modern master of the insect. Check out his books Insectlopedia from 2002 and Unbeelievables from 2012.drones

…I’ve got to fly now.
Don’t bug out!
Bee well!

Margaret Chodos-Irvine illustration for Buzz by Janet Wong 2000

Margaret Chodos-Irvine’s illustration for Buzz by Janet Wong, 2000

Update: Joellyn Rock sent a link to this video that she made called Pollinatrix the Pollinator. Buzz over and check it out!